Following Alex Riley’s thoughts on the modern-day MG here’s our reminder of a model from their past.
Now that Alex Riley has given us his thoughts on the MG marque today – and had a go in its newest model in the form of the MG 4 – it seemed like the perfect time to go back two decades. Back then MG was in a very different place, but for all its troubles there was no lack of ambition and that brings us to the slightly bonkers MG XPower SV.
It was in 2000 when BMW sold MG and Rover to the Phoenix Consortium that included Rover’s former Chief Executive, John Towers. It was clear that urgent action was needed to try to secure the future of the brand, and by 2001 it was bolstered by the introduction of the MG ‘Zed’ models. Affordable and popular they were a strong start but something bolder was waiting in the wings.
The same year saw the unveiling of a project known as X80, a sleek and very stylish coupe that was intended to provide the company with a sporting and luxurious flagship. But as good as that looked it was decided that something with more aggression was called for, and the SV made its debut at the 2002 Birmingham Motor Show.
A car that had started life as the Qvale Mangusta (a story for another time) was restyled by the talented Peter Stevens and the result was a muscular two-seater coupe with a very tasty specification. It included a carbon-fibre body that sat atop a lightweight box-section steel chassis, although the assembly process was somewhat complex. Carbon-fibre sections were cut in the UK before being shipped to Italy to be turned into panels and married to the chassis and running gear. The whole lot then returned to the UK for final assembly and trimming.
It wasn’t just the looks that grabbed attention, though. That specification included the use of a 4.6-litre V8 engine that in standard form produced a more than healthy 320bhp. It was plenty in a car that tipped the scales at around 1500kg and meant 0-60mph in just 5 seconds and a 165mph top speed. And it didn’t end there. Ignoring the old adage of less is more MG introduced the SV-R to help boost sales, this version boasting a bigger Roush-tuned 5.0-litre motor making 385bhp.
If there were no doubts about performance the same couldn’t quite be said about the price. Buyers would be expected to stump up £65,750 for an SV and an eye-watering £82,950 for an SV-R, and to say it came as a shock to the MG faithful would be something of an understatement. And those figures could be pushed even higher if those same buyers delved into the options list.
But despite the early promise the whole endeavour would ultimately end in failure. Figures vary a little depending on source, but only around 80 examples would be made and by April 2005 MG Rover had collapsed. It appears that fewer than 20 SVs are still on the road today, and when they do come up for sale they carry a price tag of £60,000-65,000.
Despite a rather ignominious end to the whole project – and to MG itself at the time – we can’t help but be glad that the MG XPower SV exists at all. We also wonder what Alex makes of it all…
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